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Purdue Hockey Club Makes Nationals for First Time in 60 Years

A Purdue hockey player slams into a Purdue Northwest player during a game

The Purdue Ice Hockey Club recently made history when they qualified and competed in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division III National Championships for the first time in more than 60 years.

The Purdue Ice Hockey team is a Division III, ACHA collegiate level hockey club with a rich history that tracks back to the 1960s. The team aims to provide students with an opportunity to continue their hockey careers and work to represent the grit and integrity that lies at the heart of all Boilermakers, and from their recent success the team has proven what students and athletes can do at Purdue.

Sebastian Thomas, graduating senior and captain of the hockey team, defines team success as "tangible results with growth and winning all together."

To secure a spot in the national competition, the team poured hours into practice, perfecting their skills to give them the best chance possible. Hockey practices are two hours in length and are twice a week in Fishers, which is over an hour away from campus. Each teammate not only perfects their skills on the ice, but also the time management skills with balancing schoolwork and hockey. Mastering these skills and maintaining excellence in both hockey and academics is required to stay on the team.

A Purdue player dribbling the puck downfield while being pursued

"We are all lucky enough to complement our academics with hockey but academics come first," Thomas says.

The team as a whole has accomplished an average GPA of 3.24, and around half of the team is comprised of engineers. In order to maintain a spot on the team, the members have to perform on the rink as hockey players and off the rink as students.

Personal development is a point of emphasis on the ice hockey team. Over the years, the team has made strides towards the improvement of the team, and the personal development of the players as a whole. Their culture of accountability both academically and as athletes fosters this development and pushes team members towards brighter futures.

"To play on this team, it grows a lot of the guys as men. You have to earn and maintain your spot," Thomas says. "A lot of the guys, including myself, can take the skills that we grew over the year and apply them past college."

The season had many ups and downs, but Purdue Ice Hockey always pushes through. They've had to deal with several obstacles such as changing their van tires in the middle of the night, having their bus break down at 3 a.m., and having half the team catch the stomach flu on a 13-hour ride back to campus from Arkansas. Regardless of any minor setback, the hockey team knows how to grit their teeth and get the job done. With an unrelenting attitude and a hunger to better themselves, no obstacle can get in their way.

The Purdue Hockey Club with their conference championship trophy

Qualifying for nationals was a symbol of the strides the team has taken as a whole. This year, the team achieved an impressive record of 22-4-1 and were ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation. The team won their league, the Indiana Collegiate Hockey Conference, for the second year in a row, which is notoriously one of the most difficult leagues in their division. In the nationals bracket, the Purdue Ice Hockey team won two of their three games and nearly made it to semifinals.

Thomas speaks to his own motivations.

"I'm a very competitive person on the ice and off, he says. Every time I get on the ice, I'm trying to win. I love the sport. If I could keep playing forever I would. It keeps me going."

Thomas has pride not only in the teams accomplishments, but in the team as a whole.

"We have a good reflection of the students at Purdue," he says. "The type of students that we have are very different and the way we carry ourselves on and off the ice speaks to our character."

Thomas finds it important to maintain the Purdue image and represent Purdue as best as possible with each game.Though practices aren't always fun, Thomas says that the Purdue Ice Hockey team is one of the closest teams he has ever been on. He attributes this closeness to the hours that the team has poured into perfecting their craft.

"We are all very close and in nature that makes it more fun," Thomas says. "The aspect of pushing ourselves to get better and seeing the success we've found makes it the best. The guys are pushing each other."

The team works hard and pushes to deliver results and they want to continue this upward growth. In the future, they anticipate supporting the team by attracting a full support staff and are also working towards setting up an endowment. Persistently, the team pursues their goals with unfailing determination

A Purdue player shouting at the camera in excitement

 Thomas says, "We want to keep making it to nationals. It was honestly awesome making it to nationals this year, and we want this to be the new standard that is set for our team."

Though Thomas is passing down the torch this year, he still is optimistic about the team's future. Post-graduation, Thomas will be moving to Atlanta to pursue a job as a software project manager. Pocketing the lessons he has taken from Purdue Ice Hockey, he is confident in his ability to achieve his career goals. He may be leaving the team and his position as their captain, but he still is rooting them on toward their next steps.

For individuals looking to get involved with hockey, there are several avenues to explore. The team encourages you to check out their schedule and attend a game, buy a jersey or for those looking to play on the team, fill out a recruitment form.